Summary Background Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma are common diseases with a heterogeneous distribution worldwide. Here, we present methods and disease and risk estimates for COPD and asthma from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors (GBD) 2015 study. The GBD study provides annual updates on estimates of deaths, prevalence, and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), a summary measure of fatal and non-fatal disease outcomes, for over 300 diseases and injuries, for 188 countries from 1990 to the most recent year. Methods We estimated numbers of deaths due to COPD and asthma using the GBD Cause of Death Ensemble modelling (CODEm) tool. First, we analysed data from vital registration and verbal autopsy for the aggregate category of all chronic respiratory diseases. Subsequently, models were run for asthma and COPD relying on covariates to predict rates in countries that have incomplete or no vital registration data. Disease estimates for COPD and asthma were based on systematic reviews of published papers, unpublished reports, surveys, and health service encounter data from the USA. We used the Global Initiative of Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease spirometry-based definition as the reference for COPD and a reported diagnosis of asthma with current wheeze as the definition of asthma. We used a Bayesian meta-regression tool, DisMod-MR 2.1, to derive estimates of prevalence and incidence. We estimated population-attributable fractions for risk factors for COPD and asthma from exposure data, relative risks, and a theoretical minimum exposure level. Results were stratified by Socio-demographic Index (SDI), a composite measure of income per capita, mean years of education over the age of 15 years, and total fertility rate. Findings In 2015, 3·2 million people (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 3·1 million to 3·3 million) died from COPD worldwide, an increase of 11·6% (95% UI 5·3 to 19·8) compared with 1990. There was a decrease in age-standardised death rate of 41·9% (37·7 to 45·1) but this was counteracted by population growth and ageing of the global population. From 1990 to 2015, the prevalence of COPD increased by 44·2% (41·7 to 46·6), whereas age-standardised prevalence decreased by 14·7% (13·5 to 15·9). In 2015, 0·40 million people (0·36 million to 0·44 million) died from asthma, a decrease of 26·7% (−7·2 to 43·7) from 1990, and the age-standardised death rate decreased by 58·8% (39·0 to 69·0). The prevalence of asthma increased by 12·6% (9·0 to 16·4), whereas the age-standardised prevalence decreased by 17·7% (15·1 to 19·9). Age-standardised DALY rates due to COPD increased until the middle range of the SDI before reducing sharply. Age-standardised DALY rates due to asthma in both sexes decreased monotonically with rising SDI. The relation between with SDI and DALY rates due to asthma was attributed to variation in years of life lost (YLLs), whereas DALY rates due to COPD varied similarly for YLLs and years lived with disability across the SDI continuum. Smoking and ambient particulate matter were the main risk factors for COPD followed by household air pollution, occupational particulates, ozone, and secondhand smoke. Together, these risks explained 73·3% (95% UI 65·8 to 80·1) of DALYs due to COPD. Smoking and occupational asthmagens were the only risks quantified for asthma in GBD, accounting for 16·5% (14·6 to 18·7) of DALYs due to asthma. Interpretation Asthma was the most prevalent chronic respiratory disease worldwide in 2015, with twice the number of cases of COPD. Deaths from COPD were eight times more common than deaths from asthma. In 2015, COPD caused 2·6% of global DALYs and asthma 1·1% of global DALYs. Although there are laudable international collaborative efforts to make surveys of asthma and COPD more comparable, no consensus exists on case definitions and how to measure disease severity for population health measurements like GBD. Comparisons between countries and over time are important, as much of the chronic respiratory burden is either preventable or treatable with affordable interventions. Funding Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.